We are at just the beginning of the huge wave of baby boomers that will be retiring and it’s estimated that 10,000 people a day are now retiring every day in the U.S. It wasn’t that long ago that Florida was the default state for retirees that were relocating to enjoy their “golden years” elsewhere. That has changed drastically. People retiring today are more active and mountain towns are more likely to be on “best places to retire” lists than beach towns. But if warm weather and water is what you are looking for, I’ve prepared this Best Places to Retire Florida 2014 to help focus your search.
Criteria Used for picking the Best Places to Retire Florida 2014
My picks may be different than some well known resources that have put out best places list for years, and there are good reasons for that. All lists use criteria such as health care, crime, cost of living and other data. No one wants to retire to a high crime area or somewhere they can’t afford. The problem with purely data driven picks is you could be choosing towns that score high based upon data, but they may actually be utterly miserable places to live.
The big secret about Florida is the state’s population continues to grow despite a large number of people moving in, AND OUT every day. Florida is one of the most transient states in the country. This is why many areas of Florida lack a sense of community. Most of the people descending upon Florida for vacation are only concerned with having a great time (nothing wrong with that, that’s what vacation is all about) and not about their impact on the quality of life of the residents. Add in over 1000 people a day moving out of Florida and you can understand why it would be hard to find a place to live in Florida that where most of the people really care about the community.
I’ve tried to pick places that have a sense of community pride because there is a higher percentage of residents who actually care about keeping or making the place they live a good one. The most important criteria I used was that the place has to be a place that you will enjoy living and want to continue to living there for years, maybe the rest of your life. If a place has the best healthcare facilities in Florida and the lowest crime, but if it’s so boring you want to stick bicycle spokes in your eyes for fun, what’s the point?
So these are my picks that I feel you will actually enjoy living in. They will also be among the safest in Florida, have good access to healthcare, warm weather, etc. Some may not be the most popular with tourist (yet), but if you’ve lived in Florida a while, you realize that the best place to vacation does not necessarily make a great place to retire.
#7 Deland Florida
Deland Florida is about 20 miles inland from Daytona Beach and I-95, off of I-4. It’s about 30 miles northwest of Orlando. So this little town is convenient to the beaches and theme parks but far enough away from the madness to be an enjoyable place to live. Deland is the county seat of Volusa County and home to Stetson University, the oldest private college in Florida.
The community of Deland suffered from decline a few decades ago but the people of the community have come together to transform the area into a nice area to live. The once deserted downtown and blighted Garden District has been revitalized and are now lined with shops, restaurants, museums and restored 19th century buildings, including the Athens Theater built in 1921.
The cost of housing is still low, even by Florida standards. There are numerous county and state parks just a short drive away offering biking, hiking, kayaking and other recreational opportunities. Trips back home are easier because it’s close to I-95 just a couple hours from the Florida line and less than an hour to Orlando International Airport. If a small town with rejuvenated Downtown area and a sense of community pride sounds like the kind of area you might enjoy retiring to, then Deland is worth a look.
#6 Homossasa Springs Florida
Homosassa Springs is a small town about an hour north of Tampa that is surrounded by forest, rivers and state parks that provide access to lots of recreation. Think kayaking, fishing, hiking, biking, bird and manatee watching. This is an area with a relaxing “old Florida” feeling to it. If you’re moving from a quiet rural area and want something similar in Florida just warmer, Homosassa Springs might be a good fit. The area is quiet and relaxing but you’ll see plenty of people enjoying the outdoors throughout the area. It’s a wildlife and outdoor lover’s paradise.
The cost of housing in this area is still low. If you’re looking for diversity though, you won’t find it here. The 2010 U.S Census put the town of 13,791 at 95.6% white alone compared to 75% for Florida as a whole. Travel north from the area by car isn’t the easiest because it’s about an hour just to get to I-75 and longer just to get to I-95. Travel by air is about an hour away at Tampa. If you love outdoor activities, this area may just “feel” like the perfect place to call home.
#5 Englewood Florida
Englewood Florida is located on the west coast of Florida about an hour south of Tampa and an hour north of Fort Myers. This is still one of Florida’s best kept small beach town secrets. It’s still relatively quiet and a very safe place to retire. Like most areas in Florida right on the coast with nice beaches, it gets busy with snowbirds and tourist during the winter when the economy is humming. It may take residents longer to drive to the store, play a round of golf and they may have to wait in line to get a seat at a restaurant “in season” but that will happen to some degree anywhere worth living in Florida.
The cost of housing is low in Englewood, particularly the Charlotte County section of the area that was a pick of mine for the most affordable places to live in Florida, in another post. Lower housing cost plus low crime and beaches on the Gulf of Mexico isn’t a package that’s easy to come by in Florida, but when it does it can result in a higher quality of life. The sidewalks roll up early in this area but most retirees I’ve met don’t party till 2am every morning any more. Travel by car heading north isn’t the easiest because it’s a trip just to get to the interstate and you’re starting from southwest Florida. The Tampa-St Petersburg to the north and Fort Myers Airports are about an hour away. Charlotte County airport is less than a half hour away and although not many airlines fly from there, there usually is at least one that offers ultra-cheap fares to select cities.
If retiring to Florida must include beaches, boating and fishing for you, Englewood would be a great choice that just about everyone can afford. Like most of Florida along the coast, there are some nice homes for seven figures also.
DISCLOSURE: In the interest of full disclosure because we present the full Florida story here both the positives and negatives, you may want to watch the 4 videos here if you haven’t seen them yet (they are in a comment near the bottom of the page).